I'm a domestic violence survivor & married a man who murdered his wife – people judge me, but he manipulated me

I'm a domestic violence survivor & married a man who murdered his wife – people judge me, but he manipulated me

January 15, 2022

A DOMESTIC violence survivor who escaped her abusive relationship to go on to marry a man who murdered his wife claims that she was manipulated into the marriage.

Stephanie Garcia met her now ex-husband Gerardo Castaneda just a month after he was released from prison, after serving 20 years for the murder of his first wife in 1996.

Because of her experiences of domestic violence in previous relationships, the 49-year-old says she had become accustomed to violent men and so she didn't initially see his past as a reason not to date him, since he showed 'remorse' for his crime.

But when she claims her husband Gerardo dumped her without giving any explanation after being together for a year, she says she realised that she had allowed the convict to 'manipulate' her by treating her so nicely.

The mum-of-two feels that her ex-husband 'took advantage' of her past as a victim of domestic violence, by 'sweeping her off her feet' with charming behaviour so unlike the treatment she was used to.

Stephanie, now a parole case manager, hopes to raise awareness of domestic violence and to encourage people to be more understanding of the impact it has on survivors.

Stephanie, from Santa Rosa, Texas, said: "I met this man and he was really kind and attentive to my needs and everything every woman would want.

"He had 20 years in prison to spend thinking about how he was going to treat a woman when he got out and so he treated me very well.

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"He totally swept me off my feet and within seven months we were married.

"He did confess that he'd gone to prison for murdering his wife and it appeared at the time that he was extremely remorseful.

"Since I had been accustomed to being with a violent man – I can't believe I'm saying this – but at the time it didn't seem all that bad.

"But now I look back and think 'my god what was I thinking, I married a man that killed his wife'.

"Any other woman would have ran the other way but because of my life experiences I allowed him to manipulate me.

"I feel like he really took advantage of my prior life experiences, which was that the relationships I'd been in were so violent and he preyed on that.

"These guys spend a long time in prison and what I've learned now is that they learn how to manipulate women."

The mum was previously the victim of physical domestic violence in two long relationships, which she claims desensitised her to violent men and abusive relationships.

Stephanie says she had been happily single for eight years before she ended up meeting Gerardo.

She was working in a school for troubled youths at the time and claims one of her students mentioned that a family member had just got out of prison.

As a firm believer in second chances, she claims she offered for the man to get in touch with her to see if she could help with his transition back into society in any way.

Despite 'never intending' to become romantically involved with him Stephanie claims the convict 'swept her off her feet' and the pair married after just seven months of dating, in July 2016.

The domestic violence survivor says the 'gentle, remorseful' demeanor Gerardo presented himself with meant she didn't have any doubts about marrying him at the time.

Stephanie said: "We started dating very quickly, within weeks and then a few weeks later he told me his crime.

I think it's unfair to a survivor of domestic violence to be judged so harshly

"When he told me that he'd killed his wife I had a lot of compassion for him because he cried and made it sound like he didn't mean to take her life and I believed him at the time."

However, after just a year of being together – in which he always treated her well – Stephanie claims Gerardo just left her one day without an explanation.

Stephanie believes that her now ex-husband had 'manipulated' her from the beginning and she now questions his feelings for her throughout their marriage.

However, since sharing her experience online, Stephanie claims she is constantly judged by others for marrying a convicted murderer.

Stephanie said: "I think it's unfair to a survivor of domestic violence to be judged so harshly because I feel that the decision I made to get involved with a man that had murdered his wife really came back to the fact that I had been in abusive relationships for so long.

"I do believe that he paid his debt to society – he spent 20 years of his life in prison and it really doesn't make sense but I am a person that believes that people deserve second chances.

"But I also know from working with that population that these people know how to manipulate – people judge me for getting involved with him but he manipulated me and people don't understand that.

"I'm older now and more mature so I can see that now."

Hidalgo County Court confirmed that Gerardo Castaneda pled guilty to first degree murder (felony) on 22 December 1996 and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

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